Toilet roll. The essential item on our shopping lists, and one of the only things we spent hundreds of pounds on a year, only to intentionally throw it away! We use it several times a day – more often if you’re a vegan, lets face it – and an empty loo roll holder instills a frantic panic amongst the best of us, leading to a feeble cry of helplessness: “what do I use now?!” It’s an underrated champion for something so simple, yet most of feel that we couldn’t live without it!
And it’s not just our delicate regions which require the trusty toilet roll. From blowing noses, wiping dirty children faces and removing last nights make up, to using it in lieu of kitchen roll (yes, hands up, I have been known to do that!) it’s estimated that an average person uses at least 30 rolls (or approx 39 lbs) of toilet roll every year. Seem’s a small price to pay to make our bums, faces and…ummm…kitchens happy, right?
But each square of loo roll adds up. In fact, global toilet paper production consumes 27,000 trees every day. Seem a bit far fetched? A fellow toilet enthusiast did the maths to work out just how much wood we were literally throwing down the loo. Bit too much effort for my liking, but you get the gist.
So, the question is, by cutting down trees which provide not just habitats for our wildlife but the very oxygen we breath – simply to lazily clean ourselves – are we giving ourselves a bum deal?
Global Toilet Toils
Many others around the world seem to think so. The subject of toilet roll was up for delate late last year, in fact, when I travelled around India, Sri Lanka and Nepal. India in particular rarely presented the offer of toilet roll in public or hotel toilets, and my companions and I quickly took to carrying a roll around with us next to our passports, ear plugs and water bottles.
So if no toilet roll was easily accessible, what did everyone else use? The answer is simple: their hands. In India the general rule is: left hand for wiping yourself, and the right hand for everything else. It is a massive faux pas to eat or shake hands with your left hand (even if you’re a leftie) as that hand is specifically used for personal care.
Sound a bit gross and unhygienic? I almost disagree. As is the argument of many Indians, it’s far more unhygienic to wipe your waste on a piece of paper and then simply throw it away (whether thats in the water system in a traditional toilet, or literally on the train tracks when travelling). At least with your hand you can simply wash it afterwards and there is no impact to your environment in the process.
However, as I said above, I only almost disagree with the merit in this method. For many areas of India, sanitation is poor and systems are simply not in place to treat waste. This is the main reason toilet roll is a less environmental or healthy option to self care. More importantly, hygiene is a real problem too, and lack of access to clean running water and soap means hands can’t be adequately cleaned.
But India is certainly not the exception. An estimated 70% – 75 % of the world’s population do not use toilet paper. In some parts of the world this is due to a lack of trees, whilst some simply can’t afford it. There are also a lot of people who would rather not spend money on fancy paper to wipe their behinds!
Regardless, it’s certainly a luxury we take for granted, but most of us can recognise it isn’t sustainable either.
Tips for Toilet Roll Usage
So what can we do to reduce our impact on the planet without neglecting our bums?! Here are few suggestions to help reduce your toilet role addiction:
- Use less squares – stop reaching for the handful and be more frugal with your roll
- Invest in a bidet – go all continental and use a special bum sink!
- Try the hand – it may feel weird at first, but if you have access to good antibacterial hand wash, a number one could be dealt with without loo roll
- Use recycled – but be wise and investigate how it is made. Reports have argued that chemicals used to treat the paper can be harmful for our health.
- Help others with every wipe – spend a few extra pennies and help others every time you spend a penny in the bathroom! Companies like Who Gives A Crap give 50% of their profits into building toilets for those who need it